From a Turbulent Takeoff to Joint Life Journey




September 2011, I was on a Delta flight from JFK to LAX. By now, you must know airport codes; otherwise, you can’t be my true reader. I was seated in a window seat in row 19, which had three seats, unlike the row in front of us, which had only two seats. So, no one was seated in front of my window seat, and the space in the aisle was free for my long legs to stretch. A young guy was sitting in the aisle seat, and we struck up a conversation. We were talking about our luck as we were thrilled to find out that the seat between us was vacant.


As we were chatting, I noticed a flight attendant talking to a forty-something blonde, thin lady in the doorway. The lady seemed fixated on our seats. Just as the aircraft door closed, the lady made her way towards our middle seat. You see, it was one of those situations where, on a 7 1/2-hour flight in coach, getting the extra seat between you and the next passenger feels like a glimpse of business class. However, this lady shattered that illusion. She had a reserved demeanor. Politely but firmly, she informed me that I left my iPad in her seat pocket and that I should move it to the pocket next to me. Her tone was condescending as if she were trying to teach me a lesson. I couldn’t help but internally roll my eyes and wonder what happened to my good luck with seatmates.


Upon takeoff, the woman continued to sit sideways, indicating she didn’t want to be bothered. I took out my iPad and started editing some photos I had taken on my trip to London. I noticed that the lady was actually staring at my images. I didn’t mind since my photos were freely available for anyone to enjoy. She smiled—wow, she can smile, I said to myself. She asked me about them, complimenting my style of photography. At that point, I thought to myself, “Nava, you have seven hours left on this flight. Make the best of it and engage with this snooty woman.” Yep, that’s how I saw her at first, someone uptight and closed off.


Surprisingly, we ended up talking for the entire seven-hour journey, and upon landing in Los Angeles, we became friends on Facebook. We even made plans to meet in her hometown of Hermosa Beach the following weekend, a place I had never visited despite it being only 50 minutes away from my home.


To make a long story short, her name was Melisa, a single lady who worked as a Delta flight attendant and traveled extensively. We arranged to meet at the 9/11 memorial wall at Redondo Beach’s market. It was during this meeting that she mentioned her birthday was on 9/11. Initially, reflecting on the events of that day, I realized how difficult it must be to have such a birthday, given the tragic events that occurred. However, America, as America does best despite facing adversity, emerged even stronger.


Melisa and I formed a strong bond, sharing our intense and unique travel experiences around the world. I introduced her to my Albert and my children, and we became inseparable friends. I particularly loved hearing Melisa’s passenger stories, like the one about difficult passengers before a flight takes off. Little did I know at the time that the gate agents were the ones who controlled the flights, not the flight attendants. Melisa would calmly escort problematic passengers to the gate agents, acknowledging that it was out of her control. We would laugh, and I would playfully imitate her, saying, “Thank you, sir. Why don’t you join me and let the gate agent solve the problem?” She would smile her American smile and wish the passengers a good day as they moved on to the gate agents. I often mispronounced Melisa’s name, calling her Malisa instead. She would humorously correct me, emphasizing that her name was Melisa, spelled with one “S.” Eventually, I started calling her Melisush, a playful nickname we both enjoyed. And that, my friends, is how our story began to unfold.


As you must imagine, 13 years will hold many events. Some are good, and some are life-changing.  So, next to trips and the cruises we made to Mexico, Tokyo, Hong Kong,  Rome, Athens, Amsterdam, Spain, and the Caribbean, we faced some not-so-cheery times. I had a benign brain tumor, Albert had a GBM and passed away, Melisa had her fair share of medical problems, she lost her mother, brother, and a niece, COVID hit, and she retired from Delta and moved away from California. Her brother moved to Spain near my place, and she visited him twice. I made a point to be there too so we can visit together.




Week Number Seven 

The Villages, Florida


We arrived at a sun-kissed place in the middle of Florida. 150,000 residences and a few villages spread out miles apart in that place. There are tons of golf carts, and they say the biggest amount of gold clubs in the world. Well, I didn’t check it. Mainly retirees from all over the globe. 

Melisa moved a few months back. She rented the house so she could figure out if it was a place for her to stay and retire.

Reflecting back on our relationship, when we met, I was the only one who lived in a few places. But now, we met in Spain after her brother moved there, and she came to visit him. My boys visited her in Salt Lake City, and now, she moved to Florida just in time for us to look for an RV park near the area. And we were not lucky, so Melisa booked us a room at the quaint Brownwood Hotel.

Upon arrival, she greeted us with her aqua-colored vintage-looking golf cart.
“It’s the color of Caroline,” I giggled.
“I just happened to see it for sale, and I didn’t even think of the color of Caroline,” she said.
Well, let me tell you, I don’t quite buy it.

We ended up visiting her for two days, sharing a pajama party even though we did not have a sleepover. I bought two pajamas to match. She got us a beautiful pillow, a candle, and a kitchen towel, all matching Caroline’s aqua color. She also supplied Goren with snacks for the long hours of driving. We visited the village square for a music night out, we went to dinner with the best smiley kind waitress I’ve seen in Florida in a long time. It’s clearly a service-oriented area. We also got to meet her friends Kate and Gary, new readers for Caroline. I hope to see you in Israel.


As I told you before, Melisa, I’m like a bad penny; you can never get rid of me. See you soon in Spain, Tel Aviv, Salt Lake City, or Florida again! We always love to keep our options open. Love you, Melisush.

Melisa with Barbra from Houston


Our next stop is Adah and Ramy Gerstnhuber, which you can find on page 135 in my book to read our story of 51 years of friendship. I promise you many more stories. Stick with me, and you’ll get the best play in town!

3 Responses

  1. Have fun and be safe Nava & Goren! We are enjoying reading It’s all about Caroline and your travels.

    1. Nava, youe stories get more and more interesting and inspiring! I can’t wait to hear about your next adventure

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